Who isn’t stressed? Kids these days are stressed in school, in their after-school life, adults have work life stress and personal stresses. Think you’re not stressed? First let’s start with what is stress: it’s a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Thought you were stress free? Think again.
In kids stress can be caused by too much homework, not understanding the lessons in school and social interactions in school. Pre-school and elementary schoolers start worrying about learning how to write their names, comparing their progress to their friends. Then they worry about learning how to read, and advancing in the reading, learning math, and passing vocabulary tests.
It gets worse as the kids age, middle school and high schoolers have multiple classes to learn material in as well as the social stresses. This is when they have social media at everyone’s fingertips with cell phones, the kids worry about their appearance and not being left out. Then if they have after school activities, they worry about performing as well as the other kids, the competitive nature comes out and they want to win. Not only do these kids have school stressors they also have afterschool stressors-learning new life skills from karate to piano lessons, family life stresses, getting chores done, communicating with parents, participating as a family member, taking care of siblings. The list goes on.
Adulthood brings its own stressors, going to work and keeping the job, making enough money to pay for bills, supporting other people in the household, money management. Then they have to make relationships work, learn to live with another person, making an emotional connection and working to keep the connection. As the adult gets older, the stressors do not lighten up, they just continue to add on, worrying about their health, taking care of the family when they are not around anymore.
Stress is all around us and can have negative effects on the body’s’ physical and emotional states. Stress can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, stomach upset, sleep problems, headaches, muscle tension, chest pains, decrease in sex drive. Emotionally it can cause overeating, undereating, angry outburst, drug or alcohol misuse, social withdrawal, exercising less often.
So what are some things that we can do to help manage our stress especially during this hectic holiday season? Plenty! See which of the following tips to help cope with stress work for you.
Focusing on the here and now and not thinking about what happened last week and all of the things over next several weeks that need to get done can help to reduce your stress. Being present can also enable you to not miss what is going on in your life at this moment. Maybe your child is in the holiday play today. Keeping your attention on this alone and not the million other things to do will not only help reduce your stress and anxiety but will help to make those special family memories that we all cherish.
Relaxation practices such as yoga and meditation as well as prayer can help to bring our body back into balance and help with reducing stress and falling asleep faster. These are ways that we can connect with ourselves, nature and a Higher Power. The 4-7-8 breathing technique can slow down our heart rate, blood pressure and help to calm ourselves. By sitting in a quiet place, breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose slowly, hold for 7 seconds, then slowly exhale through mouth for 8 seconds.
Soothing smells such as lavender put in a warm bath can help to destress from a long day. Chamomile tea has been found to promote sleepiness as well. Calming music can also aid in relieving the stress of a long day at work, kids, shopping, baking, etc. Using guided imagery in your mind encourages you to focus on a happy memory.
Avoid/eliminate as much sugar and processed food and sodas as possible and striving to eat a nutritious balanced diet including healthy fats, vegetables/fruits, meats and complex carbohydrates combined with intermittent fasting can help your body to reset its immune system and to reduce inflammation which stress can cause and make us more susceptible to infection during flu season.
Cut out some time out of your hectic day to do a body good by going for a walk. Now that temperatures are starting to downturn and humidity is lowering, take your family for a 20 minute walk. Remember, forming good habits is important and exercise is an important lifelong habit. Studies have shown that an activity done for at least 30 days can become a habit.
After a long day at work, chauffeuring the kiddos to karate and band practice, cooking dinner, going over homework, preparing for work next day, (Ahhhh! We hear you stressing out already). Put the mental brakes on. Pour a glass of wine (small amount of alcohol consumption can be beneficial to help relax you), give your partner a back massage. Maybe you like your hair brushed? These small intimate moments not only help to calm us through touch but release dopamine to give us the feel good effect. Intimacy on any and every level can have emotional and physical benefits.
Look to see what techniques work for your life to help you make the most out of this holiday season! Making memories and being with the ones you love is most important, not that we may have overcooked the turkey!
*LivingInOaklandPark.com is an independent publication, not affiliated with the City of Oakland Park.
Kim Kodzik and her wife have lived in Oakland Park/Wilton Manors area for 9 years. Kim raised two sons who now attend FAU (GO OWLS!), her alma mater. She earned her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Nursing at FAU and brings over 27 years of experience to the clinic.
Erica Tercha, an Oakland Park local, is married and raises her family right here in Oakland Park. She is a Northeast Hurricane, FAU owl, and has been in retail health for the past 5 years. Erica earned her nursing degree from Barry University and her Masters in nursing from FAU. She helped organize the 1st Light of the World Health Fair and is a PTA board member at North Andrews Gardens Elementary.